Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

The Understand Energy Learning Hub is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Wind Energy

Main content start

Fast Facts About
Wind Energy

Principal Energy Use: Electricity
Form of Energy: Kinetic

Wind energy uses naturally flowing air in the Earth's atmosphere to generate mechanical power and electricity. It is a fully renewable resource and has few climate and environmental impacts. Wind energy is one of the lowest cost sources of electricity. It is also one of the fastest growing energy resources worldwide with lots of potential for further development both onshore and offshore.


Significance

Energy Mix

2% of world 🌎
(#6 resource)
4% of U.S. 🇺🇸
(#5 resource)

Electricity Generation

7% of world 🌎
(#5 resource)
10% of U.S. 🇺🇸
(#4 resource)

Onshore vs Offshore Installed Capacity*

93% onshore
7% offshore

Global Demand

Significant increase:
⬆93%
(2016-2021)

*Onshore wind - wind turbines installed on land; offshore wind - wind turbines installed in bodies of water


World

Most Installed Wind Electricity Capacity

Total: China 40% 🇨🇳
Onshore: China 40% 🇨🇳
Offshore: China 49% 🇨🇳,
EU+UK 47% 🇪🇺🇬🇧

Most Wind Electricity Generation

Total: EU+UK 30% 🇪🇺🇬🇧,
China 29%🇨🇳
Onshore: China 30% 🇨🇳,
EU+UK 26% 🇪🇺🇬🇧
Offshore: EU+UK 84% 🇪🇺🇬🇧

Highest Penetration

Denmark 48% 🇩🇰
of country’s electricity
comes from wind


U.S.

Most Installed Capacity

Texas 27%
of U.S. installed wind electricity capacity*

Most Generation

Texas 26%
of U.S. wind electricity*

Highest Penetration

Iowa 58%
of state’s electricity
comes from wind

*Virtually 100% of U.S. installed capacity for wind electricity generation is onshore.


Drivers

  • Abundant, nondepletable resource
  • Low climate and environmental impact
  • Financial incentives (zero emission tax credits, investment tax credits, production tax credits, feed-in tariffs)
  • Renewable energy targets
  • Onshore wind: source of electricity with lowest unsubsidized LCOE**; dual land use with agriculture; quick to install, easy to repair (modular)
  • Offshore wind: fewer site availability constraints; stronger and steadier winds

Barriers

  • Local opposition (NIMBY/BANANA*)
  • Visual and noise pollution
  • Site-specific resource
  • Difficult grid integration due to intermittency
  • Insufficient transmission infrastructure
  • Inconsistent policy support
  • Avian/bat concerns
  • Offshore wind: greater regulation/permitting hurdles; expensive installation, operation and maintenance; 2-3x LCOE** of onshore wind

*NIMBY - not in my backyard; BANANA - build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything
**LCOE (levelized cost of electricity) - price for which a unit of electricity must be sold for system to break even


Climate Impact: Low

Low gradient
  • Near-zero emissions

Environmental Impact: Low

Low gradient
  • No air pollution or water use
  • Small land footprint
  • Lack of recycling of composite materials
  • Impact on birds and bats

Our 10-Minute Take On
Wind Energy

If you're short on time, start by watching this video of key highlights from our lecture on Wind Energy

Diana Gragg

Presented by: Diana Gragg, PhD; Core Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University; Explore Energy Managing Director, Precourt Institute for Energy
Recorded: March 9, 2022  Duration: 8 minutes

Embed Code

Before You Watch Our Lecture on
Wind Energy

We assign videos and readings to our Stanford students as pre-work for each lecture to help contextualize the lecture content. We strongly encourage you to review the Essential videos and readings before watching our lecture on Wind Energy . Include selections from the Optional and Useful list based on your interests and available time.

Essential

Optional and Useful

Great Wind Flow Websites

  • Global Wind Map. earth.nullschool.net. 
    A real time global map of wind conditions.
  • Windy. Windy.com.
    A real time depiction of average wind speed 10 meters above the surface (or at selected pressure level).
  • US Wind Energy Maps. US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. WINDExchange.
    Find maps and charts showing US wind energy data and trends.
  • US Wind Map. Hint.fm.
    A real time map depicting surface wind data in the US.

Wind Data Visualization Tools

  • Global Wind Atlas. DTU Wind Energy, World Bank, and International Finance Corporation.
    An application with downloadable datasets developed to provide insights into wind resource potential in support of wind power siting and development (real time).
  • Land-Based Market Report Interactive Visualizations. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
    Scroll to the bottom of this landing page and select the “Visualizations” tab to access a series of interactive data visualizations relevant to wind power cost, growth, market value, performance, pricing, and technology trends.
  • Wind Integration National Dataset Toolkit. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
    A series of wind-related datasets to support wind integration studies draw from data gathered from 126,000 sites in the continental US for the years 2007–2013.
  • WindViz Gridded Wind Toolkit Visualizer. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
    A visualization of instantaneous wind speed at 100 meters over the continental US using 2007-2013 data from WIND Toolkit.

Our Lecture on
Wind Energy

This is our Stanford University Understand Energy course lecture on wind energy. We strongly encourage you to watch the full lecture to understand wind as an energy system and to be able to put this complex topic into context. For a complete learning experience, we also encourage you to watch / read the Essential videos and readings we assign to our students before watching the lecture.

Jane Woodward

Presented by: Jane Woodward, Adjunct Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University; Founder and Managing Partner, WovenEarth Ventures; Founding Partner, MAP Energy
Recorded on: July 25, 2022  Duration: 87 minutes

Table of Contents

(Clicking on a timestamp will take you to YouTube.)
00:00 Introduction and Overview
16:27 Significance of Wind Energy
43:16 What Is Wind Energy and How Does It Work?
1:04:26 Environmental Impacts of Wind
1:12:47 Economic of Wind Energy
1:16:24 Relevant Policies for Wind Energy
1:24:05 The Future of Wind Energy

Lecture slides available upon request.

Embed Code

Additional Resources About
Wind Energy

Stanford University

Government and International Organizations